Self-Portrait with Necklace, Frida Kahlo, 1933

My wife and I visited the Frida Kahlo Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism exhibit at the North Carolina Art Museum in November.  It was an interesting exhibit.

Frida Kahlo was a relative unknown artist during her life.  It was not until the 1980s that her work began to be appreciated on an international level.  She remained a relatively obscure name until 2002, when Salma Hayek portrayed her in the critically acclaimed biopic “Frida.”  Today, more than sixty years since her death, Kahlo is probably the most famous Latin American artist of all time. Her paintings now sell at auction for millions of dollars and her image is recognizable around the globe.

Kahlo was famous for her self-portraits.  This particular painting was completed when the artist was just 26 years old and shows her unique style of painting.  She was self-taught and developed her style, as early Kahlo champion Surrealist artist André Breton, “in total ignorance of the ideas that motivated the activities of my friends and myself”.  Kahlo was still developing her style when this painting was made, so it lacks the surrealism while retaining the modernist feel that was prevalent at that time.

If you’re not familiar with Frida Kahlo, check out her work.  If you want to dig a little deeper, check out Frida: a Biography of Frida Kahlo, by Heden Herrera and, of course, there’s always the movie, Frida, starring Salma Hayek.

IMG_3317

Black Mouse, White Mouse, Scott Avett

It’s been a couple months since I’ve posted anything.  After nearly two months of chemotherapy, I underwent my second stem cell transplant in November.  It was a long hard road, but I’m finally beginning to feel normal.

A week before I had my stem cell transplant, my wife and I went to the North Carolina Art Museum, in Raleigh, to see a couple exhibitions.  One was an exhibition of the art of Scott Avett, probably best known as the co-founder of the Avett Brothers.  While he’s a member of a very successful and popular band, Scott is, first and foremost, an artist, having earned a bachelor of fine arts in painting from East Carolina in 2000/.

The exhibit was really well done.  There were a couple “immersive” pieces where you could sit among the art and listen to music by the Avett Brothers.  There were a lot of large prints, but my favorites were Scott’s paintings, many of which feature Scott or his family.

One of my favorites is Black Mouse, White Mouse.  Based on a Leo Tolstoy essay, the painting is more of a metaphor where Scott questions some of the life decisions he’s made.  In the Tolstoy essay, a man is hanging from a branch as two mice gnaw on it.  Here, Scott holds the branch over his head.  On the branch, two mice are seen.  The white mouse represents spirituality and the black mouse represents materialism.  It’s interesting because despite the great success that Scott has had with his band and his art, he still holds onto his faith.  That balance between faith and materialism can sometimes be a difficult struggle and Scott depicts the struggle with beauty and humor.

White Mouse Black Mouse

Southern Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof Off, Heather Hart

Part of African-American artist Heather Hart’s “Rooftop Oracles” series of temporary installation art, Southern Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof off is the fourth in the series.  An interactive work, it’s meant to be climbed on and in, and it’s especially popular with children.

Each of the four works in the series are life sized rooftops that look as if they were either dropped from the sky or is emerging from the earth.  Not surprisingly, the series gets its name from the Parliament-Funkadelic song “Mothership Connection.” Each work is unique.  With this work, Hart allowed museum staff and volunteers to paint the exterior in bright stripes.

It’s a popular, though temporary, addition to the Museum Park.

Southern Oracle

Standing Figure: Knife Edge, Henry Moore

Standing Figure: Knife Edge, by British sculptor Henry Moore, is yet another of the many great works of art on display at the North Carolina Art Museum in Raleigh.

While an abstraction of a human body, the nearly 12-foot tall bronze is based on the shape of a bird’s breastbone.  During the planning stages of the work Moore would pinch clay onto a bone to develop the shape of the sculpture. Once Moore was happy with the shape, a head and base was added.

I love the placement of this work.  The natural bone-like shape and the beautiful green patina of the bronze contrasts nicely with the clean angular lines of this space outside the West Building at the museum.

Standing Figure

Abstract Fish No. 4, James Prosek

This beautiful bronze sculpture is located in a reflecting pool in the North Carolina Art Museum’s North Garden.  While it’s an abstract work, there’s no doubt that it’s a fish, a subject that’s near and dear to the artist.

Prosek is an American artist, writer, and naturalist.  An avid fisherman, Prosek co-founded World Trout, a conservation effort to preserve native trout species worldwide.  His first book, Trout: An Illustrated History, was published while he was still a student at Yale University.  His paintings of fish are collected in several books, and his documentary about 17th century author and angler Izaak Walton won a Peabody Award in 2002.

If you’re a fisherman and would like to learn more, World Trout can be found at Patagonia.

Abstract Fish No. 4

Lunar Bird, Joan Miró

I love the North Carolina Art Museum.  There’s always something that I haven’t seen before, both inside and outside.  I took a walk around the West Building and discovered a sculpture that’s new to the museum.  Lunar Bird, by Spanish artist Joan Miró, is a wonderfully whimsical work of art on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.

Miró’s work is, to my mind, magical.  While he never associated himself with a style, Miró is most often described as a surrealist, with French poet and co-founder of the surrealist movement, André Breton, describing Miró as “the most Surrealist of us all.”

Lunar Bird

The Three Shades, Auguste Rodin

This sculpture is my favorite work of art by Auguste Rodin.  Despite the dark inspiration behind the piece, I find it strikingly beautiful.

The Three Shades are a representation of the tortured souls of the damned, or shades, who stand at the gates of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. The three identical figures point to an inscription that reads “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Originally created for Rodin’s monumental work, “The Gates of Hell,” several versions of the Three Shades were created, both in plaster and in bronze.  While the plaster versions of the work are quite beautiful, I think the dark patina of the bronze is more appropriate to the darkness of the subject.  This one is located in the Rodin Garden at the North Carolina Art Museum.

Three Shades

The Beyond, Part 3, NC Art Museum

You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The Beyond, an exhibit that celebrates the art and influence of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe, was recently at the North Carolina Art Museum.  O’Keeffe’s art was on exhibit as well as the work of artists who were influenced by O’Keeffe.  This is the third part of my visit to the exhibit.  You can read the first two parts at the links above.

Just as O’Keeffe’s work spanned many different styles and subjects- from landscapes to florals to pure abstracts and even sculpture- the artists whose work is on display with O’Keefe’s are varying in style and subject.    The three artists here are interesting because of the cultural influences that come from their multi-ethnic backgrounds.

Negar Ahkami is an Iranian-American artist who mixes Persian art and cultural traditions with modern influences to create wonderfully fantastical art.  Her painting, The Source, is a great example.  You can see references to the tile art and the elaborate architecture of the Middle East as well as the storytelling traditions of Persia.  You can also find the American influence in the beach scene, where sunbathers enjoy a day with the city’s skyline behind the.  It’s an interesting juxtaposition of a Western scene that would not be acceptable in most of the Middle East against traditional Persian influences.  It’s a beautiful work of art.

 

Californian artist Anna Valdez has been influenced by her experience at archaeological excavations, where she used sketch books to record and map her findings.  The two works on display as part of The Beyond are still-life that act as a visual record or catalog of the scene.  The O’Keeffe influence can be seen in the use of the deer skull in this beautiful painting, titled Deer Skull with Blue Vase.

I love Kim Garza’s paintings.   The Mexican-Korean artist celebrates the female figure in a way that’s not often seen these days.  The figures in her work are browner and rounder than is commonly pictured.  I’m a big fan of Colombian artist Fernando Botero, and Garza’s paintings have that feel.  As I said, the paintings celebrate the female figure and, in all her paintings, the women are having fun rather than just posing as a subject for the artist.  Her painting Ping Pong is a great example.  The women, are round, naked, and enjoying life.  I love the feeling of joy Garza’s art puts forth.  We should all be this happy.

Monica Kim Garza- Ping Pong- 2016-17
Monica Kim Garza- Ping Pong- 2016-2017

While The Beyond has moved from the North Carolina Museum of Art, it’s making its way around the country and is currently on display at the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, Connecticut.  It’s well worth seeing and, if The Beyond makes its way to a museum near you, I recommend you go.  You won’t regret it.

The Beyond, Part 2, NC Art Museum

For part 1, click here.

The North Carolina Art Museum recently hosted an exhibit of work by American artist Georgia O’Keeffe and and contemporary artists whose work was influenced by O’Keeffe.  There were some really nice works, some where you can see how O’Keeffe’s work influenced the artist and some that, frankly, I felt was reaching to find common ground.

Let’s start with a couple where I can actually see the influence of Georgia O’Keeffe.  First up is this wonderful painting by American and Israeli artist Sharona Eliassaf.  Eliassaf, like O’Keeffe, is fascinated by her surroundings, and the city landscapes of New York are some of her favorite subjects.  This painting, entitled Stars to Dust, Dust to Stars, is reminiscent of  O’Keeffe’s New York paintings.  I love the bright colors and the art deco influence.

It’s interesting to compare Loie Holloway’s paintings to those of Georgia O’Keeffe.  Holloway acknowledges O’Keeffe’s influence on her art, especially in the abstract sexuality in their works.  O’Keeffe’s paintings of flowers were, according to art critics, modernistic paintings of female genitalia.  Holloway’s favorite subject is genitalia, although in abstract form.  Here’s The Land’s Part, from 2017, by Loie Holloway.

 

Canadian artist Caroline Larsen’s works are quite unique.  Larsen applies the paint much the same way a baker applies frosting to cakes, using piping bags and squeezing the paint through metal nibs onto the canvas.  The result is beautiful work that is reminiscent of beading.

Like O’Keeffe, Larsen draws inspiration from the desert.  In Larsen’s case, she focuses on the little man-made oases that spot the desert.  While the two artists works are quite different, I find it interesting that, despite the different styles, the buildings in both of these works share similar colors.

Kim Keever’s abstracts are reminiscent of O’Keeffe’s floral paintings.  I like the muted colors of Keever’s photographs, which are created by pouring pigments into a large tank of water.  Because of the fleeting nature of the pigments, Keever has to work quickly to capture the smoky, dreamlike images.  His work is quite beautiful.

Matthew Ronay is a New York-based folk artist who hand-carved sculptures are both whimsical and beautiful.  Ronay acknowledges O’Keeffe’s as an inspiration.  His abstract sculptures can be rocks, plants, or body parts.  In this way, his art is like similar to O’Keeffe’s abstract works.  I love the colors and the fluidity of shape in his work.

There are so many beautiful works in the exhibit that I’ll continue with a third post soon.

George Rickey, Three Red Lines, NC Art Museum

One of the North Carolina’s Art Museum’s newest pieces, Three Red Lines is a kinetic sculpture by American Sculptor George Rickey.  The graceful red arms slowly move back and forth in an arc.  It’s a beautiful sculpture and the slow arcs of the arms can be mesmerizing.

During World War II, Ricky worked worked in aircraft and gunnery systems and became interested in mechanics and movement.  He combined his art training with his love of mechanics to create large kinetic sculptures that moved with air currents.  His work has been exhibited around the globe including in Germany, Japan and the Netherlands.

The work, along with sculptures by Spanish artist Joan Miró and American artist Ellworth Kelly are on loan from the Hirschorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.

george rickey- three red lines